Ooh La Maison Francaise: Still at the Center of Euro-Chic DC
Images courtesy of La Maison Francaise
Written by Andrea
September 21, 2009
While lately it seems that all of the embassies are vamping up their cultural programming open to the general public, Greg's List DC Culture Editor would be remiss not to note that the French Embassy's cultural arm, La Maison Francaise, was one of—if not the sole—forerunner of this trend. Scores of parties and receptions later, I am pleased to report that, yes, La Maison, you're still the one.
Representing the best of arts, film, music and social receptions on—well, actually a little off—Embassy Row, the month of September at La Maison has been no exception, with a day-long family-friendly street music festival co-hosted by The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and an evening Euro Fest showcase of food, country info, and music.
Like many of Washington's very best cultural events venues, La Maison Francaise soirees attract guests of all ages and backgrounds. It is a place where retired diplomats, "young" professionals, international students, and rambunctious little ones can all find entertainment and learning.
There is truly something for everyone, as I highlight for each events-going type below:
Annual events at the French Embassy have included holiday-themed soirees, such as La Saint Valentin and the Christmas season Party in Paris. Although they vary according to holiday, organizers ensure guests at each function have the opportunity to indulge in sumptuous deserts, delicious Champagne, fantastic French wine, and exquisite French pastries. Special features have included roasted chestnuts, snow on the faux "Champs-Elysées," and pictures in front of the petit "Eiffel Tower."
Another annual event not to be missed is the March Fete de la Francophonie, which brings together a genuine potpourri of food and music from 35 different countries and always sells out. These seasonal bashes help to support future La Maison Française and French American Cultural Foundation cultural and scholarship programming, so by our participation, one might say we perpetuate the cycle of culture, art, and gourmandise. Dancing, music, and —just un petit peu—more wine is never lacking.
Last Friday, the European embassies gathered en force to join their gastronomic assets. Guests got their fill of more than 20 culinary traditions on a steamy evening jamming to European tunes. Known to be another sell out Euro Night, crowds are neither for the faint-hearted nor stomached! We arrived with an appetite and were not disappointed, though we had to work our way through a well-heeled crowd to the delights.
Event-savvy GLDC readers will purchase their tickets early for the next gastronomic-themed evening, this year's 10th annual Champagne Tasting". The tasting, to be held on November 7, will be accompanied by samplings from Washington's favorite chefs and a silent auction.
One of my favorite facets of La Maison programming is, to be truthful, not the savory evening soiree, but the regular, indeed almost weekly film and reception that La Maison sponsors in the Embassy auditorium or that it co-hosts at other venues across the city from the National Gallery to the nearby Letelier Theater's I Luv Africa Film Series just last weekend featuring stories about African cultures and peoples. These are great every-night activities and always allow for some good post-film mingling.
La Maison is the place to be for hot live European music. In addition to the street music and Francophonie festivals, visiting musicians showcase jazz , alternative, rock, and chamber musicians, among other styles. And Friday's Euro Fest proved, once again, that there is no more authoritative—nor louder—source of French rap around! Mark your calendar for Saturday's up and coming French Indie group Cocoon.
The finale of the three-day DC Street Performance Festival featured some 40 shows throughout the day. Jugglers, acrobats, and a unicyclist, and other performance troupes from France, Canada, and the U.S. also graced embassy grounds. Les enfants delighted in face painting and even some impromptu fountain swimming au naturel on an unusually warm September Sunday afternoon. Maman and papa sipped cocktails and sparkling wine, while all enjoyed authentic viennoiseries, patisseries, crêpes, quiche, and the paella popular in southern France.
Having lived in France for a few years, I can attest to the very special quality of the Transatlantic relationship that is the Franco-American one. Here in the heart of DC, though, no doubt remains; on and off the Row, France is, hands-down, number one. Tous nos GLDC felicitations, La Maison! We look forward to many more seasons of successful cultural programming and wish those readers who have not yet visited a tres bon voyage. Whatever your focus or interest, GLDC Culture Editor gives a most confident assurance that La Maison will not disappoint!